Den of Thieves

When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:15-17)

Relate: This is just my opinion, I wouldn’t go making a doctrine about it, but when it comes to money, I don’t think Jesus cared much about it. Maybe I should rephrase that. I don’t think Jesus cared all that much about what we did with our money. I do believe He was deeply concerned with what our money does to us. You could pretty fairly sum up all Jesus’ talking about money in five words: “Do not worry about it.” When it came time for the Temple tax Jesus said he was properly exempt from having to pay it, but exercising that right was more trouble than it was worth. So he sent Peter out to fish up a coin out of an aquatic wallet. When he was watching those who gave at the Temple he wasn’t looking at the amounts but rather the heart sacrifices. When they tried to trap Him Jesus said about Roman taxes, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is His.” The brilliant thing about this answer is its deliberate vagueness. One can say, “We should pay our taxes but give God our hearts.” Another could respond, “We owe nothing to Caesar. We owe everything to God.” They are both right.

When taking that approach in this verse, I don’t think Jesus was really concerned with the service fee money exchangers were charging for currency exchange. I do have to occasionally change Turkish Lira into US dollars,  or vise versa. I do not do it all the time, but it is enough that I have learned the how and where it can happen with my lowest fee possible. Even still, there is always that fee. Maybe I should get all Biblical and start knocking over ATM’s or clearing out banks next time I have to pay it. A reasonable fee is fine and I have looked, but I have found nothing but speculation that the Temple currency exchangers were charging exorbitant fees. The only legitimate evidence I have seen comes straight from Jesus’ mouth and I would contest that in His eyes it wasn’t money that they were stealing.

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Who Fights Your Battles

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. (Revelation 19:11)

Read: Zechariah 12:1-13:9, Revelation 19:1-21, Psalm 147:1-20, Proverbs 31:1-7 

Relate: Just a few days back on Christmas Eve, I was climbing a mountain near where the oldest church building in the world exists. I really wanted to wander off the path I was on and explore the place on my own terms. I did until I remembered that this side of the mountain started in Turkey but the other side ended in Syria. The last thing I wanted was to be caught somewhere on this mountain by soldiers thinking I was illegally going somewhere I shouldn’t.

Later that same day I wanted to attend a Christmas Eve service in a newer (but still very old) church building in the heart of downtown Antioch. Although I had never been there before, there was no question when I got close. The street was one only for foot traffic and a few meters away from the church on each side were police barricades with six soldiers at each. They were patting down anyone who wanted to cross those barricades. Then, once I got to the large, locked gate I had another conversation with someone from the church and another gentleman I strongly suggest was a plainclothes officer. It was only after I was able to prove that I really was an American and I really was a Christian that they would let me inside.

The most common reaction from those with whom I have shared this experience was something along the lines of, “I’m sorry that such security was necessary but I am glad that the police there are willing to help keep you safe.” I’m not. What if I wasn’t a foreign “tourist” but a local? What if I was a Mualim? Would they not have let me in? On a day where we have such an excellent opportunity to reach out to the seekers, the curious, the lost, why are we barring entrance? Who is supposed to be fighting our battles? The government? Ourselves?


Foolish Words

It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:15)

Read: Ezekiel 47:1-48:35, 1 Peter 2:11-3:7, Psalm 119:49-64, Proverbs 28:12-13 

Relate: Remember those Red Christmas cups? Was it last winter? No. I think it was two seasons back. Starbucks decided they were going to do a simple, minimalist Christmas design and made plain red cups. Apparently this meant that they were the spawn of Satan hell bent on destroying everything that was good in the world.  Ummm… really?

Then of course for more than a year there was, and still is the endless facebook rants leading up to the election. Granted, this was probably the poorest selection of candidates America has had for at least a century, but never before has there been such a great platform for so many people who have no clue to go on and on and on about the most pointless of minutae.

Most recently the NFL has come under heat. One or two players were making a conscientious decision to kneel during the national anthem as a statement against inequality. There was a little talk here and there for or against what they were doing but it was not really that big of a deal. Then Trump tweets (somebody should really confiscate that guy’s phone, for America’s sake). The next Sunday hundreds of athletes are now kneeling in “solidarity”, the NFL is issuing statements, the sports talk shows are all weighing in and once again facebook is aflame with the ignorant talk of foolish people. I really wish I could say I was not one of them, but I have to admit that I did get sucked in… again.

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Come Alive

Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the LordThis is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:3-6)

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Shed Some Pounds

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy[c] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Read: Ezekiel 29:1-30:26, Hebrews 11:32-12:13, Psalm 112:1-10, Proverbs 27:17 

Relate: “I’m just a girl waiting for my prince to come riding into my life on a white horse and save me from this mundane life. I’m waiting for my knight in shining armor, the guy who can show me that happily ever afters really do exist.” In preparation for this post I was planning to look up some facts on the armor from the medieval age. Instead this quote popped up right near the top of my feed, attributed to unknown. Personally, I don’t think Unknown is nearly clever as he thinks he is. Far too many things are attributed to him that really were said or written to others and I had a feeling Unknown wasn’t truly the author of this quote. After all, many of the other things he said make it clear he is a dude, but this definitely sounds more like something a lady would say.

In a brief effort to prove my suspicions right, I put the quote in the search bar and asked Mr Google to work his magic. After scrolling through the first few pages it was clear that this mystery would not be solved easily and so I gave up. I don’t really care that much about this quote to go digging. Though I might not care for this quote, apparently plenty of girls on dating sites do. Mr google told me that there are plenty of girls out there who have put this as their “about me” description. Now I know, when it is time to leave the single life behind all I need do is learn to ride a horse and invest in some high quality LARP gear.

I do find it amusing how many people tend to romanticize the “elite” soldiers from this era of history. King Arthor’s round table was filled with men of courage and integrity and valor who gallivanted around the countryside slaying dragons, rescuing damsels, and outwitting questioning trolls on bridges. (I prefer to just ignore the trolls that frequently pop up on my river walks) These men feared nothing.

Well, almost nothing. I tend to believe that each and every knight who ever decked himself up in all those refurbished pots and kettles did actually have one terror in common. I don’t think there was a knight in existence who was not scared of falling off boats or bridges. Think about it. How quickly do you think those clumsy or outfought fools will find themselves embedded on the bottom of the sea? They don’t stand a chance. The moment their overbalanced accoutrement  pulls them into the water they are done for. No chance.

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For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.(Colossians 1:19-20)

Read: Jeremiah 4:19-6:15, Colossians 1:18-2:7, Psalm 77:1-20, Proverbs 24:23-25 

Relate: “No. This is a lie. I don’t know how to prove it to you, but I know this is a lie.”

With this statement, I knew that any further discussion in this direction would get nowhere. It was the end of a conversation barely more than an hour ago. A Muslim man wanted prayer for peace of mind. I prayed, along with a couple other Christians for him for a short while, and then asked:

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One Big Family


For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29)

Relate: Sometimes it seems like the disparate pieces don’t quite fit together. My church here in Southeast Turkey is in many ways three different churches that all meet under one roof. There is an English speaking, a Turkish speaking, and an Arabic speaking service every Sunday. Even in the English service there are between 12 to 20 different nationalities and cultures represented any given Sunday. Many of these are African and sometimes the worship can get a bit… rowdy. Others in the congregation are from Central or Eastern European countries and are coming from a very high church background where you would never imagine such exuberance in the sanctuary.

For many English is actually a second or third language and so it is difficult to structure and shape a message that can be both challenging and clearly understood. I have to admit, sometimes things don’t always fit together. Egos get in the way. Sensibilities are upset. Cultures clash. But these are moments to grow and stretch. We are a family and I don’t know about you but growing up in my home sometimes siblings…  well, they taught their parents the necessity of patience. Honestly, I would be very worried if someone said there was always perfect agreement and serenity in their home. Either someone is very dishonest or something very weird is going on in that house. I’d put my money on an alien mind control device. Is there any way I could buy it off you or at least borrow it for a couple of my classes?

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